Dedicated school transportation chief recognized by statewide colleaguesDan Bacon, a veteran of the Moorhead School District’s transportation outfit, is known as a man of few words who’d rather dodge the spotlight.
By: By Mila Koumpilova Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
MOORHEAD, Minn. – Dan Bacon, a veteran of the Moorhead School District’s transportation outfit, is known as a man of few words who’d rather dodge the spotlight.
The district’s transportation director since 1986, he mostly succeeded in keeping a low-profile even during what’s been an eventful year-and-a-half. In the spring of 2008, the district laid off its buildings chief and handed over his duties to Bacon in a cost-saving move. He’s juggled what for decades had been two separate roles in the district.
Last spring brought more upheaval. Bacon became the district’s flood fight point man, dispatching school buses on evacuation missions and hosting responders at schools.
It was his role in warding off the floodwaters and his double role in the district that helped land Bacon the state’s Transportation Administrator of the Year award this month.
“We’ve put a lot on his plate, and he hasn’t once complained,” says Wayne Kazmierczak, the district’s assistant superintendent and Bacon’s boss. “All he’s done is ask for understanding as he’s adjusted to the new job. It’s a continued challenge.”
In April 2008, Bacon was in charge of Moorhead’s 60-plus bus routes; they’re covered by district drivers and four private companies, a setup that predates Bacon’s leadership.
Then, Bacon, who worked as both custodian and bus driver in the district while in college, saw his duties suddenly swell: He would supervise 20 custodians in the district’s seven facilities. Two of the buildings, Reinertsen Elementary and Horizon Middle School, were about to embark on major energy efficiency upgrade projects.
“It’s anxiety creating but not overwhelming,” says Bacon of the transition. “Sometimes there’s divided attention: You have to deal with a transportation issue and building issue at the same time.”
He says addressing some issues – say, a parent’s request for a bus stop change – might now take him a couple of days rather than a couple of hours. He’s had to delegate more.
But, he says, “It’s been almost two years, and I am still doing OK.”
The flood fight was his biggest test yet. In the buildup to the Red River crest, Bacon’s office became an evacuation emergency hotline; he put in 16-hour days and some all-nighters there coordinating the district’s part in the fight.
He sent school buses to assist in rural evacuations, shuttle volunteer sandbaggers and serve as warming shelters for National Guard members patrolling the dikes. He also coordinated the evacuation of Eventide, the senior living center.
Meanwhile, emergency personnel from outside the area set up shop at Moorhead High School and Reinertsen.
“I consider Dan to be a critical component of Moorhead’s success this past spring in the flood fight,” says Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger, adding, “Emergency responses require calm, level-headed people like him.”
Randy Dukek, president of the Minnesota Association for Pupil Transportation, said Bacon’s many duties and his involvement in the flood fight gave him an edge in winning the award. He said that, though less of a rarity than it would have been a few years ago, a combined transportation and buildings position in a district of Moorhead’s size is still fairly uncommon.
“I think it would be quite a daunting task,” Dukek said. “Transportation itself is a full-time job.”
Mila Koumpilova is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.